I’ll admit, I haven’t been a fan of Doctor Who for too long. Just within the past year or so, I began to watch the show and have only watched halfway through season 3. Luckily many of the episodes feature stand-alone stories or else I’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble (even though I am very familiar with the show’s overarching story elements) because as you may or may not know, season 7 began tonight. In what was an ingenious season starter, the Doctor faces down the Daleks yet again and even manages to help save Amy and Rory’s marriage while he’s at it.
Let us get one thing out of the way before diving into the brilliance of “Asylum of the Daleks.” In a Doctor Who review, I’ll probably never ever speak on or critique the writing, acting, or overall storytelling of the show. In almost every single episode, the three elements listed above are spot on. Never have I once complained about the writing or the acting. I am always left impressed and contemplating the question, “Why can’t American television ever be this good?” The only element I ever really weigh in on is the story itself, and even that’s incredibly rare. I mean, it’s incredibly rare to have a show as consistently good as Doctor Who.
“Asylum of the Daleks” begins with a depiction of Amy and Rory’s failing marriage, a scene that shows model Amy expressing to her colleague that she no longer has a husband when she is summoned by him. Soon, machine-like, zombified humans begin to contact the companions and the Doctor. The Doctor and the Ponds wind up on a Dalek spaceship orbiting far above a “rehabilitation” planet for the most hateful of said aliens. Instead of extermination though, the Daleks have saving on their minds. They ask the Doctor to remove the planet’s force-field so that they have a chance to destroy the planet and erase all Dalek irregularities.
Interesting is it that instead of trying to kill Who, they ask for a favor, huh? It’s a perfect way to start a brand new season, throw the fans for a loop and capture them within the first five minutes; when does the show ever not do that though?
Once on the planet, an intelligent woman named Oswin, from an unknown location, contacts the three travelers and helps guide them through the Dalek ridden asylum. She hacks into the Dalek system to do things like open doors, turn on transporters, shut down force-fields and erase the alien’s minds of any recollection of the Doctor and what he once meant to them. In a dramatic scene never experienced before by us viewers, the Dalek’s, in confusion, begin to question altogether, “Doctor, who?”
The Ponds’ marriage is made right when Rory offers to give Amy his bracelet that prevents him from changing into a Dalek when she herself begins to change. Once realizing that the Doctor already gave Amy his bracelet, the two reconcile and are later found kissing. When the Doctor finally arrives at Oswin’s location to rescue her from the Asylum, it is made apparent that Oswin was once a human, but has now been changed into a Dalek. All human thought and emotion, including her undisclosed location, she experiences is revealed to be a dream world, a fantasy made up by Oswin to try and protect her humanity during her transformation into a Dalek.
It is brilliant to know that Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character, Oswin, will in later episodes, become the Doctor’s next companion. Does he revert her back into a human? Does the Doctor take on his first Dalek companion? Or does he return to a past time period to save her from her original transformation? Many questions are left behind at the end of the episode, but they are not ones that leave us frustrated; instead, they are ones that will leave us patiently pondering each and every week until they are answered. In the end, the Doctor transports himself and the Ponds to the TARDIS just as the force-field comes down and just as the Daleks blow up the asylum planet. It is then that the Daleks lose their memory of the Doctor, and the three return home: the Ponds to their marital house and the Doctor back to the highways of time.
You know the first episode of a brand new season is great when it wraps up its main storyline, but still leaves viewers wanting more and questioning, searching for answers to the small quizzical nuances presented in the episode. “Asylum of the Daleks” does just that, and it even accomplishes more in its 45 minute run-time than most films do in their hour-and-a-half or more. Character development is always top-notch and even though the Doctor faced down the Daleks for the umpteenth time, the story was fresh and intriguing. This season opener left me with no complaints, but what it did leave me with is something I’m sure you all are experiencing right about now: a feeling of complete and utter joy that a new season of the Doctor has begun. And if you aren’t feeling that at this very moment, then you obviously aren’t watching the right show on television.
9 out of 10